Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.
The old man walks down the empty streets
of the concrete jungle. High above,
streetlights cast star-like brightness, throwing
criss-crossing shadows down graffiti-strewn walls.
It is mild fall weather, breezeless. He places
one foot in front of another. Keep moving
he tells himself, as he makes his way down
the late night alleyways of the inner city.
He is thinking of his dreams, how he doesn’t like
what his unconscious feeds him. He would prefer
to dream of someone, anyone, leaning over
to rest their hand on his shoulder, a tender kiss
behind the ear, a warm hand reaching out for his,
a kind voice. He argues for this because
he has not heard a kind word,
or been caressed for so long even his memory
of such events have faded into disbelief.
The old man walks alone, shoulders hiked,
hands tucked in pockets, eyes downcast.
He’s had a few, spoken to no one, now
on his way home where he will nod
on the couch, sleeping with his clothes on.
He is caught in a repetitive dream,
like watching a film of himself walking down
a neverending alleyway, going nowhere
in particular. He thinks he hears himself moaning,
a resistant wordless voice.
When he awakes, he realizes it is only
the persistent nagging of the street cat
he irregularly feeds. It takes more time
for his mind to clear, for him to figure out
where his is. Rumpled and grumpy, he takes
a swipe at the cat, chasing him
to hide away in a darkened corner.
A tear wells up for no discernible reason.
He wipes it away with his sleeve, rolling over
to bury his face in the couch corner, inevitably
returning to the walking dream.
Dennis DuBois holds a Master’s Degree in social work, and has worked to help others for decades, while writing poems along the way. He has published poems in Bee Museum, Curved House, The Projectionist’s Playground, Runcible Spoon, Verse News and Message in a Bottle. He is preparing a collection of poems and a first work of fiction. He is an American expatriate, living in Copenhagen.